Responding to Tragedy: Chesapeake Shooting
How can a community respond to a mass shooting? How do they learn what happened? How do they comfort the bereaved? How do they remember the lives lost? Residents of Chesapeake, Virginia, had to ask these questions after a shooting at the Sam’s Circle Walmart on November 22, 2022.
At 10 p.m., Andre Bing fired a 9 mm handgun at his coworkers in the Walmart break room. One witness says he just looked around the room with a blank stare and kept shooting before he left the room and continued shooting in the store. Bing killed six of his coworkers, harmed others and turned the gun on himself before the police arrived.
During the investigation, police found a note Bing wrote on his phone before the shooting, a partial explanation and broken prayer. He claimed that some of his coworkers mocked him. He felt isolated in life and wished he could “start over from scratch.” “I was harassed by idiots with low intelligence and a lack of wisdom,” he wrote. “The associates gave me evil twisted grins, mocked me and celebrated my down fall the last day.” Bing began his note by confessing his failure to God, saying he had ignored the Holy Spirit’s guidance. His last line says, “My God forgive me for what I’m going to do.”
In the days after the shooting, people gathered to remember the victims and pray for their family members. The six victims ranged in age from 19-70 years old. Randall Blevins (70), the oldest of the victims, was a dedicated employee who worked for Walmart for over 20 years. Kellie Pyle (52), the mother of two adult children, planned to get married this year. Lorenzo Gamble (43), a custodian on the overnight shift, is remembered as “a man of strength, who loved and worked hard for his family.” Brian Pendleton (38) loved sharing jokes with his family and friends. Tyneka Johnson (22) was full of joy and excitement about the possibility of attending college. Fernando Chavez-Barron (16) was a junior in high school who had just started working at Walmart to help his family and used his first paycheck to buy his mom’s Christmas gift.
In the hours after news of the shooting reached the media, locals called loved ones and reached out to friends to make sure they were alright. Later, the names of victims were shared with the public, and the Chesapeake community began to mourn the loss together. Even now, months after the shooting, grieving continues, and the pain of loss persists.